The Shins redeem low-energy concert with epic encore


Josh Axelrod | Senior Staff Photographer

James Mercer grimaces as he belts at a high note. The performer was afflicted with a sore throat during his Nov. 14 concert.

By the end of The Shins’ Nov. 14 concert at The Civic Theatre, lead vocalist James Mercer could barely speak.

He croaked out a barely audible “Thank you very much” and left the stage. The singer informed concertgoers that he had a sore throat and wasn’t feeling great. Grimacing throughout the entire performance, Mercer’s singing was noticeably weak.

When the band departed the stage, concertgoers cheered for one more song, stomping and clapping, as if to demand their money’s worth out of a low-energy and slightly disappointing set. Somebody must have taken Mercer’s tonsils out or hit him with a defibrillator backstage, because the band delivered an incredible three-song encore, saving the show.

Mercer was in top form, belting out choruses and dancing and jumping across stage in true rockstar fashion. The encore included “The Fear” and then a mellowed-out version of “New Slang.”

“I had a rough start tonight, and you guys totally kicked in,” Mercer said.

They finished with “Sleeping Lessons,” including an interlude of “American Girl” by Tom Petty. During the song, bassist Casey Foubert climbed atop a speaker and jumped off stage, running into the audience as a stagehand scrambled to keep his wires untangled.

The energy transformation was almost comical, with Mercer’s newfound vigor, Foubert’s acrobatics and bassist Yuuki Matthews slamming his guitar down on the drumset. The audience went wild.

The rest of the show was not a total loss, just surprising given the band’s reputation for excellent live concerts. Somehow, Mercer’s falsetto was totally intact, and The Shins at low energy is still equal to most lesser bands performing at full capacity.

Jon Sortland, the group’s drummer, seemed oblivious to the concert’s shaky start. He rocked out, bouncing all over his seat and dominating the stage with rhythmic intensity.

The opener was Baio, who is also the bassist for Vampire Weekend. The performance was silly at best and seemed like an imitation of Ryan Gosling’s ’80s scene in “La La Land.”

Wiggling the mic and shaking his tush, Baio was clearly going for irony but didn’t have much talent to back it up. His ridiculous dance moves made the set feel more like a bad Saturday Night Live sketch than actual music.

Josh Axelrod | Senior Staff Photographer
Chris Baio, the bassist for Vampire Weekend, performed a goofy dance while singing to open the show.

Following the clunker was easy. His underwhelming start was probably the reason that it was hard to place a finger on the fact that something was off with The Shins’ show at first. Even though the night was only about 30 percent awesome indie music, that portion of the concert was 100 percent animated and gleeful rock.

Rotating between a cup of tea and a can of Lone Star beer, Mercer’s beverage choices were representative of the show’s two settings: mostly tame with a little bit of wild. They might go better separately, but drunk together sure made for an interesting night.

The audience was more than happy to give The Shins a second chance as soon as they saw the Lone Star kicking in.

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